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Can You Install Hardwood Over Concrete? (How To)

Hardwood flooring is one of the most beautiful options we have for our home. It is durable and can be installed under most circumstances. Is it also possible to install hardwood over concrete?

You can install hardwood over concrete if it is free from defects and the concrete was poured more than 90 days ago. Concrete makes a solid, suitable subfloor. You will have to use a vapor barrier to protect the hardwood.

Modern hardwood flooring in the bedroom

As is the case with almost any type of flooring, preparation is the most important aspect when installing hardwood over concrete. Unless you prepare properly, you will not be happy with the finished result and it can even ruin the wood floor.

Although we will cover the preparation in detail, one aspect that should not be overlooked is the need to use a vapor barrier. Why is this so important?

First of all, moisture is always going to be a problem but it is even more of a problem when a concrete subfloor is in place. The moisture can develop due to changes in temperature and it will ruin the floor from the bottom up.

In addition, as the concrete hardens, it will put off moisture. It gets less after some time passes but, as a general rule, you should not put hardwood on concrete until at least 90 days have passed.

Even after 90 days, it is possible for moisture to come up through the concrete and affect the bottom of the floor. The bottom line is; use a moisture barrier because it will save your floor in the long run.

Can You Install Hardwood Over Concrete? (How To)

In this article, we will discuss how to install hardwood over concrete. There is one particular method that we will focus on, but there are actually multiple options available.

Some of these options are going to be more convenient than others but they should all be considered.

1. Nail Down – With this type of installation, nails fasten the wood to the subfloor. This is difficult, because you can’t nail into concrete easily. In order to use this option, you have to drill the concrete and put a dowel rod in the hole to give something for the nail to sink into.

Obviously, you’re not going to be able to nail down a wood floor to a concrete subfloor. You may need to nail down the first piece, however, even if you are using a floating installation to help keep the first row from moving unexpectedly while the rest of the installation takes place.

2. Glue Down – As another option, the hardwood floor can be glued to the subfloor. This is a possibility when you are dealing with hardwood over concrete, but there are also problems associated with it as well. Moisture is perhaps one of the considerations that could be problematic more than any other.

If you are planning on gluing a wood floor down to a concrete subfloor, some type of flexible flooring adhesive should be utilized. You want the floor to contract and expand without causing damage to the planks. If the floor was glued down solid, it would not have the chance to move slightly, causing problems such as buckling, separating, or cracking.

3. Floating – Out of all of the different types of installation options for hardwood over concrete, this is the option that is considered more than others. A floating floor rests above the subfloor and is not directly attached to it.

A benefit of a floating floor is that you can easily put a moisture barrier underneath the wood to protect it. In addition, as the floor naturally expands and contracts due to differences in temperature and moisture level, it can move about freely without separating or buckling.

Another factor that needs to be considered carefully is safety. If you are going to be installing a wood floor, you have to do so safely in order to protect yourself and others. Here are some things to consider:

Safety Glasses – Wearing qualified safety glasses is important to protect your eyes. Goggles can also be considered. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that prescription glasses are the same as safety glasses.

Gloves – Wearing gloves can help to protect your hands from splinters, cuts, and scrapes. Generally speaking, a good pair of all-purpose gloves is what is needed for installing a hardwood floor. Don’t wear gloves if you’re doing something that could put your hands at risk because of gloves.

Respirator – Some hardwood is treated, and those chemicals can get into your lungs when you are cutting the wood. Even regular sawdust is not good for you. Wear a disposable particulate respirator, such as an N95 while cutting the wood.

Kneepads – Ask anyone who works in the flooring industry and they will tell you that you can ruin your knees very quickly. Even if you’re only doing a small floor, kneepads can make the process more comfortable and once you use them, you wouldn’t think about doing this job without them.

Guards – Since you will be using saws and other power tools to install the hardwood floor, it is important to keep the guards in place. Those guards are not there to be an inconvenience or to be ‘in the way.’ They are there to protect you, so use them for their intended use.

Let’s take a look at how to prepare the floor and some other factors that will help to make the job a success.

Should You Install Hardwood Over Concrete?

We’ve already discussed the fact that you can install hardwood over concrete. The question as to whether you should do it, however, is quite a different subject.

There are many benefits to installing hardwood over concrete and it often comes down to a personal choice. If you feel that living on the hardwood will be a better choice for you and your family, then there is nothing holding you back from doing it.

Here are some of the specific reasons why people install hardwood over concrete. Perhaps these can help you to make a decision:

Value – When you have a high-quality hardwood floor in place, it adds to the value of your home.

Comfort – Most people find that having a hardwood floor under their feet is much more comfortable than having a concrete slab. Even if the slab is stained or painted, it is still going to be cold and uncomfortable.

Beauty – Admittedly, stained concrete is beautiful but there is nothing quite like the look of a solid hardwood floor. It adds a lot of beauty to your home that is easy to see.

Timeless – Concrete floors are trendy but hardwood floors are timeless. If you want something that is still going to be popular several decades down the road, you can’t go wrong with a hardwood floor.

Preparation Before Installing Hardwood Over Concrete

confused man standing

With almost any type of DIY project, the most important part is the preparation. This includes what is needed to prepare for the installation of hardwood over concrete.

An important factor for installing a hardwood floor over concrete is to acclimate the wood ahead of time. This process may differ from one manufacturer to another, but typically, you would let the wood in the room where it is to be installed for up to 72 hours.

Of course, acclimating the hardwood is only one of the many different things that need to be done in advance of the installation. Here are a few other things you can do to be prepared properly.

1. Overage – When you purchase flooring, you should buy 10% more than what you need for the installation. This overage will benefit you in numerous ways.

First of all, there is going to be a certain amount of waste, regardless of how carefully you measure and cut. In addition, any mistakes are going to require that you have some extra wood on hand as well.

Finally, there may come a time when you need to repair the floor. If you have a board or two left over, you can repair the floor using flooring from the same lot.

2. Remove Flooring – This is not always going to be necessary but if there is tile, carpet, or another type of flooring in place, you may want to remove it. This will allow you to install the hardwood directly over the concrete slab. It also allows you to install new flooring without raising the floor elevation too much.

3. Remove Baseboard – The hardwood floor is going to be installed under the baseboard. Since you are likely to install a floating floor over the concrete slab, installing it under the baseboard allows the floor to expand and contract without exposing the edge.

4. Cut Doorways – Use a doorjamb saw to cut the doorways so the hardwood floor will fit underneath. It’s best to do this now because you can clean up the dust and bits of wood before doing the installation.

5. Clean – Cleaning the floor is an important part of the installation. Sometimes, there may be adhesives on the concrete that need to be removed. A concrete grinder can be used for this purpose. If a floating floor is being installed, you don’t have to remove everything on the floor, just make sure that it is level and free of contaminants before the floor is installed.

6. Leveling – If there are high points or low points on the floor, this needs to be addressed at this point. You can grind down high points if needed but you may also need to float the floor to ensure that it is flat and level. High and low points will show up under the hardwood floor.

7. Moisture – Get a moisture test kit to check the levels of moisture in the concrete floor. Confirm those levels with the recommendations by the flooring manufacturer.

8. Acclamation – Once the concrete subfloor has been prepared, bring the wood flooring into the room and allow it to acclimate to the temperature and humidity. This may take up to 72 hours. Check with the manufacturer’s instructions to see how to properly acclimate the hardwood.

9. Staging – Set up all of your tools at this point so you can begin working right away. If you are using a chop saw or a circular saw, have an area outside of the room where the wood is being installed so you don’t have to clean up after it constantly.

Let’s take a look at the steps necessary to actually install the hardwood over concrete:

How To Install Hardwood Over Concrete

Handyman working on the hardwood floor

Now that we have the area prepared properly, it’s time to actually dig in and do the work. These are the installation instructions for your new hardwood floor.

When installing a hardwood floor over concrete, you first have to install a single row. This is the row that is placed closest to your beginning wall. Use spacers to ensure that you are leaving enough room for expansion and contraction.

If you’re using tongue and groove so you snap together the wood floor, the first row along the wall will be put with the groove side facing the room and the tongue against the wall.

Some people attach the first row down with glue to ensure that it doesn’t move. When installing laminate over concrete, however, I would recommend that you have the entire floor floating. In that way, it can move as necessary as the temperature and humidity change.

When you begin to work on the second row, it’s important to use cut pieces at the ends so you are not lining up where the pieces come together. You want everything to look as random as possible so no patterns are seen.

Copyright protected content owner: ReadyToDIY.com and was initially posted on August 22, 2022.

Ensure that the lock is fully in place with the second row. This may require the use of a special tool that is sold as part of a kit for installation. Tighten things up now because it will be difficult to do so later.

Continue to work your way across the room until you are close to the opposite wall. When you get to that point, you’ll have to pull the piece into place. This can be difficult, but with a rubber mallet and pull bar, you will find that it snaps together much easier.

Finally, finish up the room by reinstalling the baseboard and any other fixtures that were removed. Be careful not to get the baseboard so tight that it doesn’t allow the floor to move and shift under it.

The only thing left to do at this point is to stand back and admire all of your hard work.

Can You Hardwood Over Concrete Slab/Subfloor?

confused man standing

If you have a concrete slab, can it be used as a subfloor for hardwood floors?

As long as a concrete slab is in good condition and has been down for more than 90 days, you can use it as a subfloor for a hardwood floor installation. Concrete actually makes a very nice subfloor but make sure you use a vapor barrier between the concrete and wood.

If there are any defects to the concrete slab, such as high points or low points, they should also be fixed prior to the hardwood floor installation. Some people find it beneficial to float the floor prior to installing hardwood.

Can You Hardwood Over Stained Concrete?

Handyman working on the hardwood floor

If you have a concrete slab that is already stained, can you use it as a subfloor for hardwood?

Stained concrete can be used as a subfloor for a hardwood floor installation. Since the hardwood will be floating over the subfloor, there’s no need for you to remove or prepare the floor if it is otherwise in good condition.

The only problem you may have is if you decide to use any type of glue. The glue may not stick properly if the concrete is stained.

Can You Hardwood Over Concrete Stairs?

confused man standing

When you are putting down the hardwood floor, can you continue the installation over concrete stairs?

Concrete stairs make a fine foundation for a hardwood floor. Rather than having it floating over the stairs, you should attach the hardwood to the concrete with glue.

Make sure that you are using a flexible type of adhesive. You want the wood to move naturally but gluing it down helps to keep it from moving too much.

Can You Hardwood Over Concrete With Radiant Heat?

Handyman working on the hardwood floor

If you have a concrete slab with radiant heat, can you install hardwood over it?

You can install a hardwood floor over a radiant heat system. Prior to doing so, check with the manufacturer to see if there are any limitations as far as the floor glue that is recommended.

Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on August 22, 2022.

Concrete is an excellent choice as a subfloor for installing hardwood flooring. There’s no reason for you to do any additional work, outside of repairing any damage to the concrete and ensuring that there are no high or low points that would affect the installation.

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ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on August 22, 2022.

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